Longarm pieced quilt for Nick is now bound, finished & on the way

It’s finally on the way to Nick!

Snuggle Quilt Bound & finished
Nick's utility/sofa/snuggle quilt bound & finished with coordinating quilted pillow sham
Snuggle Quilt
Just the quilt -- pieced & quilted entirely on the longarm quilting machine
Back side of quilted pillow sham
Back side of the quilted pillow sham -- sham is 'envelope style' with velcro added for stability. Ends are bound, inside seams are French seams so no raw edges to be seen anywhere.

I’ve already got another idea to use for this technique…stay tuned!

How I pieced a utility/throw quilt on my longarm quilting machine

Recently I pieced this utility/throw/snuggle quilt for my eldest son.

Piecing...on the longarm.
Laid out over the quilting machine
Lighting muted to show quilting texture on top
Back Side -- Sample of the Freehand Quilting Textures

Once I finished piecing the quilt on the longarm, I used the long rectangular strips as “freehand practice blocks,” doing something different in each strip/rectangle.

I have received numerous requests for how to do the piecing on the longarm What I am able to provide by way of  free instruction is limited to text description.

TERMS OF USE: This basic process is presented “as is” and does not constitute any type of warranty or guarantee for your outcome.  If you choose to use my process, you agree that you are using it at your own discretion, at your own risk and that you alone are responsible for your results.

My basic process for piecing on the longarm:

Backing fabric loaded on the longarm.

Quilt batting loaded on top of backing fabric.

Begin piecing top (on top of the batting & backing).  Personal side note: My favorite thread to use for piecing on the longarm is Superior So Fine.

Select a variety of strips, allowing two strips (same width of strip, but differing lengths) per row.  By having differing lengths, the center/off-center joins of each row will be staggered.

For each 2 strip (per row) section, I pressed the short, raw edge of one strip under (to the wrong side) 1/4″ — this is what will form the join in that row.

FIRST ROW: Lay fabric pieces right side up on top of batting, placing the pressed short edge of the one strip over (overlapping)  the other strip’s raw, short edge by 1/4″.  This is the row’s center (off-center)  join.  It can be be off center or wherever you want but please make it a DIFFERENT place in each row to eliminate bulk build up at the joins. Secure with a few pins.  Turn on channel locks of the longarm.  Stitch across the top edge of the pieces making sure not to hit any pins and going at a slow pace, smoothing as you go.  You may wish to remove the pins as you go or after you have finished stitching across the row. Once you get to the other side of the row, turn off the channel locks, go back to the center join and topstitch the pressed edge (center join).  Pull up the center join/topstitching threads as necessary, as you go.  I like to tie them off and bury them as I go using a Spiral Eye Needle.

ALL REMAINING ROWS: Row by row, lay the two strips wrong side up on top of the previously stitched row with the pressed short edge on the bottom and raw short edge on the top at the “off center” join. The raw short edge should overlap the pressed edge by 1/4″. Place a few pins across the strips (out of the way of  the stitching line) to keep the strips from shifting during the stitching process. Channel lock stitch 1/4″ (long raw edges) across the width of the quilt. You may wish to remove the pins as you go or after you have finished stitching across the row. Once you get to the other side of the row, turn off the channel locks.  Bring your iron over to the longarm. Press the long seam all the way across to set the seam.  Open and press the new row forward, toward you and on to the batting so that fabric is now right side up and the next row is formed.  Bring your longarm back to the center join and topstitch the pressed edge (center join).  Pull up the center join/topstitching threads as necessary, as you go.  I like to tie them off and bury them as I go using a Spiral Eye Needle.

Repeat as often as needed until the quilt reaches the length you desire, advancing your backing & batting on the rollers as necessary.

LAST ROW: Stitch 1/4″ from bottom edge.

Keep in mind that the piecing/stitching also acts as quilting and it is visible on the back (as rectangles).

Now go back and fill in all those rectangles with lovely freehand quilting!

Happy stitching.

About this technique: I am NOT the first to “piece” a quilt on the longarm. I learned the basics  from Deb Levy through her videos available to “Premium (paid) Members” at MQ Resource.   HOWEVER, my method is not exactly the same as hers.  Additionally, Deb stated in the video that piecing on the longarm was not original to her.  She did not say who was first, nor do I know who was.  Further, what I learned from Deb did not involve the center/off-center joining strips together within the rows. She demonstrated the sewing of single strips which were complete rows themselves.  I don’t know if others have done the ‘join’ or not.  Certainly, someone out there may very likely have thought of it. But no one ‘taught’ that part to me, nor did I ever see, hear, read about how to do it.  It was just something I thought to try when I was trying the basic technique and it worked for me.

Practice, practice, practice…

Last year I spent a lot of time working on my physical well-being, working out and revamping my lifestyle to become stronger.  This year I will continue on that path, but I need to get back to feeding my creative well-being. I think I only quilted once or twice in 2009. YIKES! Poor Maximus (the longarm) has been screaming for some attention.

Good news.  I finally have loaded a quilt top on the longarm. This top is one I inherited a long time ago and I do not know the maker.  Bless his/her heart…they must have had very poor eyesight and definitely did not own an iron. This top has virtually every problem you can imagine:  extremely poor piecing resulting in curvy seams & DD cups, selvage edges exposed on the top side where seams were less than 1/4″, none of the blocks have seams that match and most of the points have been destroyed, not to mention the old poor quality polyester fabrics fraying galore. Definitely not a show quilt.

Oh no….this one will never be seen in public. BUT, if I quilt it densely enough to keep it held together, we can use it to cuddle & keep warm in our family room.  No stress required!

I have to admit…one of the reasons this top has gone un-quilted for so long (6 years) is that I worried it wouldn’t turn out perfectly.  WHAT a  joke! There is NO way that thing is ever going to look good, no matter what is done to it. Reality check: Nothing I could do to this quilt could make it worse.  So I decided to scribble quilt or whatever…in all the wonky blocks.  But what about all the open white spaces? Yes! Lots of dense pebbling. I love pebbles but I had never developed that skill so this quilt is the perfect practice, practice, practice candidate.

White on White Practice Pebble Quilting

I’m using  Bottom Line Thread top & bobbin for this quilt since the quilting is so dense (approx. 1/4″ pebbles in the white areas and dense scribbles in the wonky blocks). I love this thread and the fact that it blends right into the quilt without a lot of thick build up even if I happen to backtrack over the same area multiple times.  I have heard that some longarm quilters have difficulty using it in the top of their machine, but that has not been my experience at all (at least so far).  I love it and have had very few breaks unless I did something irregular (such as a sudden jerk).

It may seem a little crazy to spend so much time (and so much thread) on such a poor quality quilt/top, but I’ve got to say it’s helping me BIG TIME to get comfortable with Max and to fine tune my fine movements. I’m LEARNING and this feels fantastic!  Yes, I still have a ton to learn and I’m OK with that but I can definitely see improvement in my pebbling from when I first started.  That’s a great thing.

The best part of this: I’m taking a big item off my to-do list, finishing it and making it a useful item to keep my family warm.  That’s an AWESOME thing. 

No more fear, no more excuses, and absolutely ZERO regret.

How about you? Do you have a project or several you’ve been putting off finishing because they aren’t necessarily your idea of  “the best”? Isn’t it time to just get ’em done and get some use out of them?  What’s holding you back?  Feel free to share your stories or comment. I enjoy reading your responses.

Shadow and “over” quilting…

This entry is a continuation of my previous post.  If you didn’t read the previous entry you may find it helpful to understand what I’m doing:https://www.sewthankfulblog.com/?p=313

I haven’t completely finished my latest practice piece yet, but I can show you how it’s coming so far.

After I completed quilting the panto design over the entire surface of the top fabric, I began shadow quilting from the front using a darker shade (hence, a “shadow”) of Glide Thread.

Shadow thread applied from the front.
The darker "shadow" thread was applied from the front of the machine.

The goal of my “shadow” quilting was to practice quilting from the front of the machine without having to think about what kind of design to practice.

Since I had already quilted the panto design from the back of the machine (good practice in itself!), my design was in already in place and no marking was required. Yes, I know I could think up a design, but my time is limited so I need to make the most of it and maximize practice time and materials whenever possible.

Using this method, I was able to get a feel for following the line of the design as well as the relationship of the hopping foot to the line of stitching.  I was also able to experiment with improvised quilting where desired…i.e., if I felt an area of the panto was too open, I could practice stretching out the size of my freehand quilting using the “shadow” thread in order to fill the area better.

Once I finished each pass with the “shadow” thread, I changed threads (top and bobbin) and applied the contrasting “over” quilting thread. For my highly contrasting thread, I chose a bright yellow.  See the edge of the “over quilting” in the previous pass (right side) in this picture:

Notice the edge showing "over quilting" on the previous pass on the right hand side.
Notice the edge showing "over quilting" on the previous pass on the right hand side.

Here’s a close-up:

Close-up of "over" quilting using yellow thread.

Summary: This method of quilting the panto design from the back, then shadow quilting with a darker (blending)  thread, then over quilting with a highly contrasting thread has been a fantastic learning experience for me.  In many ways it is like quilting 3 quilts on one.  This technique really is working to improve my feel for the machine and hand/eye/body/brain coordination.  I love the effect and the “pop” that the over quilting achieves when I look at the quilting overall.  To me, it has a sense of motion and the yellow makes it burst in joy. This piece is NOT a show quilt. It is a PRACTICE piece–but I’ll proudly put it on my bed and over the years I’ll fondly reflect on the lessons I’ve learned making it.

Finally quilting again!

It’s been MONTHS since I’ve been quilting.  There have been so many distractions since right before the holidays 2008.   No more excuses, today is the day.

I picked my panto:  Meandering Daisy from Urban Elementz

Urban Elementz Meandering Daisy Panto
Urban Elementz Meandering Daisy Panto

I loaded my top fabric, muslin backing & wool batting.

The longarm is locked & loaded--ready to quilt!
The longarm is locked & loaded--ready to quilt!

Full frontal view:


I selected a gorgeous Fil-Tec Glide Thread and started quilting…yahoo!

Close-up of Meandering Daisy quilting
Close-up of Meandering Daisy quilting

I’ve completed 5 passes…just about 4 more to go. I haven’t had many problems with breakage or tension.  However, thanks to Ginger’s antics (50 pounds of English Bulldog slamming into me) I did need to stop and pick out a couple of times.

My favorite gadget for this is still the Superior Snippers.  This tool is fantastic for digging in to carefully isolate just the right thread to pick out and then snip–if desired–all in one smooth movement.

Stay tuned. I have plans to add some “over” quilting using at least one different thread color for increased dimension.  If all goes well I’ll have pictures of that to share with you next week.

Happy sewing & quilting!!